Archives November 2008

Grab a bargain while you can…

We have a running joke about Tchibo, the German shop which sells, well a small selection of everything. I just have to pop in each time I am in Fareham because, well, the stock changes every week. Any excuse, I suppose.

This week, I have found the perfect thing for every anglocatholic parish who delights in the Ministry of Setting Light to Things:

kw45_14748_detailA blowtorch is the essential tool for the right-thinking thurifer. I am amazed how many still sit there for an hour before mass with their little candle trying to light the supposedly self-lighting charcoals.

In order to get incense to burn well, you need really hot, ash-free charcoal: scrape and blow, and get them lit as fast and evenly as possible. This makes a Chef’s Blowtorch the key tool, along with a pair of Spencer-Wells Forceps. Using one of these, you will be up and ready really quickly. The are fueled by Butane (Lighter Gas) and you get an excellent flame.

You could also use them for Creme Brulee, but where’s the fun in that?

http://www.tchibo.eu/is-bin/INTERSHOP.enfinity/eCS/Store/eu/-/GBP/TdEuDisplayProductInformation-Start;sid=U1kKm40rZ9AKmsQF13gA_46y7t34O2rqQyY=?ProductSKU=0014748

It says “out of stock” but we know better – a bargain at under a tenner in store – go for it and quickly because they might have taken them away by next week.


Grab a bargain while you can…

We have a running joke about Tchibo, the German shop which sells, well a small selection of everything. I just have to pop in each time I am in Fareham because, well, the stock changes every week. Any excuse, I suppose.

This week, I have found the perfect thing for every anglocatholic parish who delights in the Ministry of Setting Light to Things:

kw45_14748_detailA blowtorch is the essential tool for the right-thinking thurifer. I am amazed how many still sit there for an hour before mass with their little candle trying to light the supposedly self-lighting charcoals.

In order to get incense to burn well, you need really hot, ash-free charcoal: scrape and blow, and get them lit as fast and evenly as possible. This makes a Chef’s Blowtorch the key tool, along with a pair of Spencer-Wells Forceps. Using one of these, you will be up and ready really quickly. The are fueled by Butane (Lighter Gas) and you get an excellent flame.

You could also use them for Creme Brulee, but where’s the fun in that?

http://www.tchibo.eu/is-bin/INTERSHOP.enfinity/eCS/Store/eu/-/GBP/TdEuDisplayProductInformation-Start;sid=U1kKm40rZ9AKmsQF13gA_46y7t34O2rqQyY=?ProductSKU=0014748

It says “out of stock” but we know better – a bargain at under a tenner in store – go for it and quickly because they might have taken them away by next week.


Requiem Mass: what parishLife is all about

Last night we celebrated a Requiem Mass for G, who died suddenly a fortnight ago.

With the coffin placed in the Nave, the people of the parish sat around her, and simply, confidently and with great dignity, the promises of the resurrection were proclaimed. As I preached extemporaneously I recalled G’s life, her idiosyncrasies which were so endearing, and the impact she had on the lives of her two sons gathered there, and the whole congregation with whom she had journeyed her whole life, the only response we could possibly make was in the sacrament.

I truely believe that the greatest thing we can do is to proclaim the Resurrection, and nowhere is this more apparant than in the Requiem Mass: where life and death are key players in the retelling of the story of salvation. On such a cold night, those truths kept me warm and kept reminding me why I love doing what He has called me to.


"Biblical" Christianity

I love the way that a certain sect of the Church has seemed to claim the Scriptures for their own use and their own narrow, Pharisaical agenda.

I have a poster from Christian Aid from many years ago which has Desmond Tutu saying “when people say that politics and religion don’t mix, I have to ask myself which Bible they are reading”, and it makes me wonder if we are indeed reading the same Scripture.

When you see an advert in the Church Times jobs section with the code-phrases “Biblical Christianity” or “Teach the Authority of Scripture”, you just know what that Church is all about, and it ain’t the Bible.

I’d like my Bible back. I think it’s very important, but I don’t think you are using it in a way which honours God or the people trying to follow what the Didache called his way. To decry the Inclusive, to neglect the Stranger and the Outcast, to preach hate and rejection, seems to me to be very “unBiblical”, and yet it is precisely those values which are claimed as “teaching the authority of Scripture”. Reflecting on Matthew 25:31-46 has brought this on, this morning, and set me wondering precisely what “Biblical Christianity” really is, and it goes far beyond issues of sexuality, but into the very heart of the Godhead itself.

If to be “unBiblical” means doing what Jesus called us to do for the Stranger and the Outcast, then maybe that’s the badge I have to wear.


Sermon: Christ the King, Year A : Sheep and Goats

Text: Matthew 25:31-46

In the name of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Many of us know the classic verses in the Bible by heart. We may not know all of the Bible verse perfectly, but there is enough in our very soul to be able to call to mind key words: to know and to understand the core meaning.

Let me illustrate. I will start the Bible verse and when I pause, you fill in the key word or words. You will be surprised at how much you know…

John 3:16: (You fill in the blanks after my pause.) For God so loved…THE WORLD…that he gave his only begotten…SON…that who so ever … BELIEVES in him will not perish but have … EVERLASTING LIFE.

See what I mean? You knew the key words, and so did your neighbour.

Let’s do Psalm 23: The Lord is … MY SHEPHERD…I shall not …WANT; he makes me like down in …GREEN PASTURES… he leads me beside…STILL WATERS

See, you know it. You may not be able to recite all the words of the twenty-third psalm perfectly, but with a little help, you know the important words. And wasn’t it impressive to hear so many people filling in the blanks.

Let’s try the same process with another classic passage from Holy Scripture: Matthew 25.

In Matthew 25, Jesus talks about the final judgment, the sheep and the goats. This passage, too, is engraved and indelibly imprinted into our soul. This passage lives deep within us. Now, no cribbing from the sheet, but have a go…

I was hungry and you gave me … FOOD. I was thirsty and you gave me…DRINK. I was a stranger and you …WELCOMED ME. I was naked and you…CLOTHED ME. I was sick and you took…CARE OF ME. I was in prison, and you…VISITED ME. When you do these things to the least of people, you do them to…ME.

You got it. You know the essentials of this classic passage about the final judgment, and God’s call to care for hurting people in the world. We know that when we care for the hungry, thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned, we are actually taking care of Jesus who lives behind these faces of these people. Christ lives within these hurting people, behind their eyes, their tears, their pain.

We all know that. Our desire is that we are numbered among the sheep and not the goats. It is our prayer that we not only know who these people are, but that do what God wants us to do. The doing of compassion is much more difficult than the knowing about compassion.

Years ago, one of my friends told me a story about his visit to Israel. He was out in some remote hills of Israel and he came upon a band of Bedouin tents.

At a distance from his car, he could see that there was a herd of sheep and goats around those Bedouin tents. It has long been practice in the Middle East to keep herds and flocks together: Goats feed by browsing and so have a habit of wandering, but as flock animals they like to stick with the whole flock, and grazing sheep are less likely to wander into harm: the sheep and goats are actually (and it might surprise you in the context of this parable) quite good for each other.

From a distance, the sheep and goats looked very much alike. As my friend approached this Bedouin camp, he could then see that the sheep had been recently sheered of their wool. When the sheep were sheered, the sheep looked very much like the goats. But up close, he could see which ones were sheep and which were goats.

Similarly, God sees our lives up close. We can’t fool God. God is up close to us and knows whether or not our hearts are compassionate like the sheep in this story or if our hearts are pretending to be compassionate, like the goats in this story. From a distance, we cannot discern true compassion or pretending of compassion, but up close, God knows clearly the difference.

God know the hearts of truly compassionate people, and God wants our hearts to be truly compassionate, not only to our favourite family or favourite friends. The whole Gospel of Matthew is very challenging to those who put family before God, kinship before Christ. Christ suggests that old orders have now changed and there is something much more important that we are called to.

To be compassionate to our favourite family or favourite friends is quite easy and comes quite naturally, but it is another thing to be truly compassionate to the hurting people of this world…to the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned.

God wants our hearts to be truly compassionate to the hurting people in our world around us, and not merely to kith and kin, and those who are similar to us, who like us, and are from the same social background.

This Gospel does not say that just by doing good works, we will attain the Lord’s favour, for that is the heresy of Pelagianism. The good works which we are called to are an outpouring of our faith, and faith and good works are not mutually exclusive, in fact they depend upon each other: to separate works and faith is like splitting an atom: it has terrible consequences.

There is not some kind of Spiritual or even Moral Examination at the end of time – nothing we can revise for. The point of our Lord’s teaching is not the Judgement: the facing up to our past (which is, as I have often said, is what the real torment of Purgatory probably is), and the horror-filled realisation of those who has passed by on the other side, that it was Christ himself on the Street Corner, In Prison, In Hospital and In Trouble.

The point of this most fundamental teaching is that the Kingdom of God extends far beyond what we might like to term polite society, that involves people like you and me, and lots of others whom society deems unpalatable, and that what shines through this is precisely those key tasks which you have, I know, installed in your heart.

Once more:

I was hungry and you gave me … FOOD. I was thirsty and you gave me…DRINK. I was a stranger and you …WELCOMED ME. I was naked and you…CLOTHED ME. I was sick and you took…CARE OF ME. I was in prison, and you…VISITED ME. When you do these things to the least of people, you do them to…ME.

“Go then,” and as he taught us, “do likewise…”

Amen.


A morning wasted looking at the Blackberry hourglass

At least I could get on with other things, such as preparing for the Dec 8th Pilgrimage Liturgy, writing a *little* bit more for ‘Pregnant with Expectation’ on the 14th December, and starting at the Blackberry Hourglass whilst I upgrade to System Software 4.1.5 on my Blackberry 8320 Curve.

screen

The most annoying thing about my Blackberry is the time it takes to start-up. The way to restart a Blackberry is so technical – you take off the back and flip out the battery! There is coming up a national “battery flip-out day” so that we can all restart afresh and clear up the memory leaks and other things that slow our smartphones down. But it takes ages and the delay when upgrading the software is immense. It took nearly 40 minutes to start up before restoring the data. The whole software upgrade has taken more than two and a half hours!!!

The first problem was that it only wanted to upgrade with Internet Explorer, which I seldom use because I am a fan of the Social-Networking savvy Firefox-based Flock (www.flock.com), then the download and install of Application Manager failed because it relies on the Windows Installer Service to be running which does not run by default. A cryptic error message, and a dig under the hood to CONTROL PANEL / ADMINISTRATIVE TOOLS / SERVICES and then look to manully start “Windows Installer Service”, then a reboot, then another attempt and then a very slow upgrade process, which has messed up my theme and my screen. Grrr.

It had better be worth it.


More passwords than I can handle…

Like most people, I have access to a wide range of systems: servers, routers, websites, home banking, paypal, ebay, amazon and quite frankly, I can’t remember half of the passwords I need.

I suppose I have done what most people do in the circumstances, and use and reuse passwords between tens of websites: the same login, the same password and despite what I tell people to do, I am just as bad as everyone else. This is simply because I havn’t the brain capacity to contain all those different passwords.

A recent security compromise on a developer’s website and the hacking of my webserver has, however, made me start to think again, and I am changing my passwords progressively to be different across all my systems. How I will track this is with a little program called KeePass (http://keepass.info/)

keepass

It can run as a standalone application on a memory stick, so I have installed it on my new 16Gb stick on my keyring (the size of 4 DVDs constantly in my pocket – I still can’t believe it!), and created a very simple autorun.inf to start the application when it gets inserted into a PC (which ever one I happen to be on).

To do this create a simple text file called AUTORUN.INF and put it in the root of the memory stick.

In the text file, add the following:

[autorun
open=Run_Password_Manager.bat
icon=stick.ico

You can go to the wonderful iconarchive (http://www.iconarchive.com/) for a lovely icon of your choice, and put that in the root of the memory stick also, as defined by icon=

Create a simple text file called Run_Password_Manager.bat (or what ever you want to autorun) and in that put the following:

@echo off
cd KeePass
KeePass.exe SPR.kdbx

or whatever program you want to autorun, in this case, I have specified the name of the database file I am using on the stick. So when I plug it in, a popup says “Do you want to run …” and when I say yes, the Manager is loaded. This runs on any PC I plug into. I would like to stop it opening up a black command window, but I suspect this is because I am using a batch file rather than a nice executable.

As for password choices, one effective way is to prepend or append the password with an identifier of the site you are on, so a password of abcdef becomes paypal_abcdef. This is made even better when you use the mixture of upper, lower, letters and numbers you are supposed to…

You can also use KeePass for recording other necessary information and configuration details, so I have all my network config recorded there for easy reference.

Give it a go, you will find it useful.


The Tempter – Youth Club Talk

Text: Matthew 4:1-11

You know that I spend a few moments each week telling you a story, sometimes a tale of marvellous feats, of amazing people, of outstanding events.  Rarely, do I speak of the supernatural, of the strange and mysterious.

But tonight I will. Yes yet tonight we will also speak of something entirely common to all of us, something not supernatural at all, but what we have to confront everyday of our lives: temptation.

Temptation. Big things or small things. Insignificant lies to major theft, the short cut to an easy life or the next cream bun.

Just before he started his work amongst us, after nearly 30 years below the parapet, keeping his head down, waiting, waiting for the right time. He went out to a lonely place, a desolate place, to work out what it was all about. Forty Days and Forty Nights: a long time with scant food or water or company. It was there the Tempter came to him.lucifer

Do you think that the devil appears with horns and a pointed tail? Do you think that temptation looks so horrible? Temptation rather looks quite attractive, quite beguiling. Temptation comes in forms that seduce. The Tempter came alongside the Man and tried his best to do what he does O so well.

“If you are so hungry, why not turn the stones around us here into bread.  After all, you are the Son of God”

Why not serve your own needs, your physical needs, before all others? Why not use the immense power  you have to make your own life comfortable, why deny yourself a little food, a lot of food, a world of food, all the world’s comforts?

“You cannot live on bread alone, but by everything that God says”. There is more to life than the purely physical, there is more to life than what you can touch, taste and smell. Think beyond the boundaries of your physical needs. And the Tempter knew he was beat.

Then the Tempter took the Man up to the highest part of the temple, the tallest place they could find, and tried to use the Man’s faith against him – to manipulate him by placing more emphasis on words than on God.

“If you are the Son of God, throw yourself off the top here, the Bible says that the Angels will come and save you from even bruising your feet on the rocks below”

But the Man knew not to get wrapped up in the words, trapped by taking the book too literally, and shot right back: “it also says ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test!”. And the Tempter knew he was beat.

So the Tempter tried once more, and took the Man to a high mountain, where he could see the whole world, all of the kingdoms, all of the riches.

“I will give you all this: power, riches, an easy life if you will worship me”. The greatest temptation, the easiest life. All you have to do is to submit to the worst of your tendencies.

But the Man had his priorities right: “The Scriptures say ‘You must worship God, and only him”. Not musicians, or politicians, or trainers or football teams. Not Reality TV shows or violent video games. Not food or drugs or the girlfriend, or the boyfriend. Worship none of these things, for they will lead you to the worst of yourself.

“You must worship God and only him”

And the Tempter knew he was beat.

Temptation doesn’t always appear in supernatural form, and certainly not with horns and a tail. But temptation is all around, and is constantly at your side, discouraging you, undermining you and trying to get you to betray yourself.

The Man had the Tempter beat. And you can have the Tempter beat.

Seek God. Do not test. Worship only him.

And the Tempter who is always there, and will always be there will be beaten.

Amen.